Practical Christian Living, Part 2

 

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

February 23, 2003

Practical Christian Living, Part 2

Romans 12:10,11

Introduction

There are many kinds of friendship ranging from casual
acquaintances to best friends. But what is the nature of the love
in friendship that God desires for us to have for one another?
Perhaps the following story of two men in WW I gives us an idea
of it.

Two friends had enlisted in the Army together. They trained
together, were shipped overseas together and fought side-by-side
in the trenches. During an attack, one of the men was critically
wounded and unable to crawl back to his foxhole. The field was
filled with barbed wire obstacles and was under deadly enemy
crossfire. It would be suicide to try to reach him. Yet, his
friend decided to try, but before he could get out of his own
trench, he sergeant pulled him back in side and order him not to
go. "It’s too late," he said. "You can’t
do him any good, and you’ll only get yourself killed."

A few minutes later, when the Sergeant had turned his back,
the man instantly climbed out of the trench and went after his
friend. A few minutes later he staggered back, mortally wounded,
with his friend, now dead, in his arms. The sergeant was both
angry and deeply moved. "What a waste," he blurted out.
"He’s dead and you’re dying. It just wasn’t
worth it." With almost his last breath, the dying man
replied, "Oh, yes, it was, Sarge. When I got to him, the
only thing he said was, │¬ËœI knew you’d come,
Jim!’" (Gary Inrig quoted in The Tale of the Tardy
Oxcart
).

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born
for adversity,"
Proverbs 17:17 tells us. Jesus said,
"Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his
life for his friend,"
John 15:13.

Commitment and sacrifice are two of the key qualities of love
that are expressed in a true friendship. This morning we will be
continuing our study of Romans 12 and examine some of the ways in
which Christians are to treat one another. Each of the character
traits and behaviors we will look at are predicated on
foundational principles and commands of verses 1 & 2. I
urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present
your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God,
[which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be
conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of
your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which
is good and acceptable and perfect.

The character traits a Christian is to develop and the
behaviors we are to have are simply the practical outworking of
being a "living sacrifice" that is being "transformed
by the renewing of our minds."

We have already seen some of the practical outworking of being
a living sacrifice in our study of the first part of this
chapter. Christians are to have attitudes of humility because
every Christian is a part of the body of Christ. Each believer is
equipped by God with gifts or gifts by which they are to serve
Him, and every believer, every gift and every ministry is needed
for the body to be healthy and growing in godly maturity.
Christians need one another.

Last week we examined the key practical character trait that
is a result of being a living sacrifice. Christians are to love
without hypocrisy demonstrated by abhorring evil and clinging to
what is good. This love is ajgavph
/ agape, the love marked by its sacrificial nature in giving of
itself for the benefit of another and based in conscious choice
instead of fleeting emotions. This is the love God has for us. It
is the love we are to have for God. And it is the love Christians
are to have for one another and all humans.

Many people will act like they love someone, but the reality
is that such love is not there. They are hypocrites who seek to
use people for their own advantage. Christians are to love
without hypocrisy. We say and do what is right for other people
because of our response of love for God because of His love for
us. As living sacrifices, we seek to honor and please God above
all else. Our lives are to be centered on His kingdom and will
and not our own. Non-Christians try to avoid being hypocritical
by changing their actions to match what they think and feel at
any given moment. The Christian avoids being hypocritical by
doing what is right regardless of what they feel and then
changing their attitude to match.

This true love also reflects God’s character and nature,
and for that reason it abhors what is evil while it clings to
what is good. The idea of "abhor" here, as explained
last week, is hating or detesting something even more than hell.
There is an aversion to it and you want to get away from it. The
Christian is to feel that way toward anything that does not
reflect God’s character and nature. At the same time, they
desire to hold fast to anything that does.

In being a living sacrifice, the Christian has a duty to God
and himself to love without hypocrisy by abhorring what is evil
and clinging to what is good. This morning we continue on to
verse 9 and the Christian’s duty as a living sacrifice
toward other Christians. But before we do, just a quick reminder
that these character traits and behaviors are what Christians are
to be and do as they are transformed by the renewing of their
minds into mature Christians. This is not something automatic and
instantaneous, though we wish it were so. Jesus Christ has
forgiven His followers, and He has broken the power sin had over
them, but Christians are not sinless. We are in the process of
being conformed to His image, but that picture is still being
developed. It is not perfection that makes the Christian
different from the non-Christian, but being forgiven and the
direction of their lives.

Believer’s Duties to One Another

What then are a Christian’s duties to other Christians?
Romans 12:10-13. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly
love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging
behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing
hospitality."

One of the things I discovered in studying this passage is how
much we can miss with an English translation. In English, this
section appears to be a series of 10 related but independent
statements or commands of how we are to treat each other.
However, just as in verse 9 in which there is one statement with
two supporting clauses, here we have two statements with
supporting clauses under each giving further explanation of how
those statements are to be fulfilled.

A more literal, though wooden, translation of verse 10 would
be, "The brotherly love unto one another (is) devoted, in
honor to one another giving preference."
Giving
preference to one another in honor is not an independent command,
but it is the means by which we are to demonstrate our devotion
to one another in brotherly love. It defines the nature of this
devotion of brotherly love.

Brotherly Love

Brotherly love is filadelfia/ / philadelphia, a compound word that
combines filoV
/ philos, a word which we saw last week referred to love
in the sense of affection such as in friendship, and adelfoV / adelphos, which means
"brother." filadelfia// / philadelphia means love, affection
or the friendship of a brother. The city of Philadelphia is
supposed to be the city of brotherly love. (Whether it is that
way would have to be determined by those who live there). This
term is used throughout the New Testament to describe the
relationship Christians are to have with one another.

Peter encouraged believers to develop this character trait,
commanding in 2 Peter 1:5-7 "Now for this very reason
also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral
excellence, and in [your] moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in
[your] knowledge, self-control, and in [your] self-control,
perseverance, and in [your] perseverance, godliness; 7 and in
[your] godliness, brotherly kindness, and in [your] brotherly
kindness, love."
It does take some work to develop this
quality. The Thessalonians had developed it and so Paul commends
them "Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no
need for [anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught
by God to love one another"
(1 Thess. 4:9), but Paul
went on to encourage them to excel still more in it (vs.
10). It is something we have to let continue (Heb. 13:1). Peter
speaks of the origin of brotherly love when he comments, "Since
you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a
sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the
heart
" (1 Peter 1:22).

This idea of brotherly love also comes out in how Christians
commonly refer to one another as the "brethren" or
"brother" or "sister." That is following a
Biblical example, not just a cultural manner of speaking.

Brotherly Love vs. Friendship

What is the difference between "brotherly love" and
regular friendship? It would be nice to just say that it is the
greater love you have for your siblings than your friends, but
the sad fact is that so many people have bad relationships with
their siblings, that such a definition is confusing. Ideally,
your siblings should be your closest friends in life except for
your spouse. (If that is not true for you, it can be for your
children if you will raise them properly. That is one of the
things we teach in our parenting class. Ask me about it after the
service).

The major difference between brotherly love and other
relationships is the depth of the commitment. Friendships come
and go based on common interests and how close you live. For
example, you might have friends at work, but you do not socialize
with them other than that. Other friendships may revolve around a
sport or hobby, but the relationship does not go beyond that. You
also may be friends with those who live close by, but if they
move away, it is rare that the relationship is maintained very
long other than perhaps a Christmas card. There are certainly
exceptions, and I am glad I have several such exceptions in my
own life, but that is how most friendships work. There is a
different dynamic that occurs among most siblings, even when they
may not share other common interests or live nearby.

The lives of siblings intertwine because of shared heritage
and memories and family obligations such as birthdays,
anniversaries, weddings and funerals which force your continued
interaction with them even if you live far apart. I live 3,000
miles from my brothers and we do not talk very often, but when we
do, we immediately have an intimacy that does not exist with
other friends. Family obligations also invoke the responsibility
of caring for each other when hard times comes. Again, as
Proverbs 17:17 points out, "A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity."
I am 3,000 miles
from my brothers, but I know we would be there for each other if
any of us faced trouble.

Within the body of Christ there is not only the idea of this
greater commitment to one another that should exist among
siblings, since we are all brothers and sisters by virtue of our
common adoption into God’s family, but beyond that is the
ideal of having loving relationships in which those obligations
are carried out with joy because of our desire to be with each
other. You want to be involved with your brothers and sisters in
the body of Christ.

Devotion

This idea is strengthened by the word that is translated here
as "be devoted." It is filostorgoV
/ philostorgos, another compound word combining filoV /
philos, a word we looked at earlier and meaning love in the sense
of affection, with the word storgh /
storge, which we saw last week, which describes the love of
family members for one another. Our brotherly love for one
another is to have the commitment and affection of family members
for one another.

As a living sacrifices who are being transformed by the
renewing of our minds, we are learning to love without hypocrisy,
abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good. The
practical outworking of this in our relationship with other
Christians is this brotherly love which is marked by the same
type of deep devotion and commitment that is supposed to exist
within a family.

Preferring One Another

How is such brotherly love and devotion demonstrated? Paul
explains it in the supporting phrase at the end of verse 10 as
"giving preference to one another in honor."

The concept here is that of leading out in showing the way of
giving mutual respect, admiration and appreciation for one
another. We are not to wait for others to treat us well. We are
to set the example that others will follow.

Philippians 2:3,4 gives greater definition of this concept.
Paul begins that chapter by speaking of his desire for those in
the body of Christ to be working in harmony with one another.
Then he says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty
conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one
another as more important than himself; do not [merely] look out
for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of
others."
This is followed by his pointing to Jesus
Christ as the example of this. Jesus left the glories of heaven
in order to become a man and willingly die on the cross as the
substitute sacrifice for our sins. That is the ultimate example
of humility and of self sacrifice to meet the needs of others.
And as Paul said in Romans 5:8, Jesus did this while were still
in our sins. We were not deserving of it in any fashion, yet His
love for even His enemies compelled Him to do this. How much more
then should we sacrifice of our own pride and what we think are
our rights in order to serve our Christian brothers and sisters.

The reason that Christians struggle with being devoted to one
another in brotherly love is their own pride. At the heart of
pride is the idea that you are more important than other people.
That is why the proud person thinks other people should serve
them. They think they deserve to be honored first, and afterward,
they might condescend to show honor to someone else. This is
common in the world, but it also occurs in the Church. Christians
can think that they and what they do is more important than other
believers and what they do.

It is not until we come to the Cross of Christ that we
understand what we all really are – worthless sinners who have
been saved by God’s grace. We are nothing in ourselves. All
that we are at present is only because of God’s mercy in
saving us from sin. What we will be in the future is only because
of what Jesus Christ will do for His own glory through us.
Remember that even the ministry you have in serving God has been
given to you according to His will. You are no more special in
the body of Christ than any other Christian though you have
different gifts, different ministries and different positions
within the body. Everyone is needed for the body to function
properly. We are to treat each other with that mutual respect and
honor.

Do you consider the needs of others as more important than
your own? The Christian is supposed to do that, and especially so
when it comes to other believers. Paul tells us in Galatians
6:10, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good
to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of
faith."
The selfish person who sees life revolving
around themselves has a great, if not impossible, struggle to do
this. The Christian is to respond to God’s love for them in
Christ by their own love for Jesus and their fellow man. They are
to turn from self centeredness to God centeredness. Life is no
longer to be about their own will, but rather about seeing His
will fulfilled. Their view of people is to change from what can
they get out of them to what can they do to help them walk with
God.

A Functioning Family

A properly functioning family gives of themselves for the best
interest of the rest of the family. Mom and dads sacrifice the
things they could have had or done in order to care for their
children. In fact, I find that most good moms and dads will do
things for their children that they would not do for themselves.
They train their children to behave that way with each other. I
am blessed to come from such a family. My parents sacrificed a
lot in order to do what was best for my brothers and I, and they
taught us to do the same with each other.

I was blessed with a wonderful older brother, who I am sure I
greatly irritated at times, but he was always there to help me
out if he could do so. He has also always been willing to share
whatever he has with me even to this day. My younger brother was
at times very irritating, and we had quite a few fights growing
up. As we got older we matured and learned to get along better
and appreciate each other more. I can’t recall ever even
having an argument with him since we reached our late teens. He
is more athletic than I, which at times was embarrassing for me –
who likes to be beaten at tennis by a younger brother who had
never even played before – but I have always been proud of his
achievements, even when they were better than my own. We all
shared the name Harris, and anything good done by one member of
the family was a good reflection on the rest of the family.

That is the way it is supposed to be in the family of God.
Being devoted to one another in brotherly love requires the
humility to let God do with you as He desires and to rejoice in
whatever it is. It also means you rejoice in whatever God is
doing in and through the lives of other believers. There is no
room for jealously. Any thing good done by one Christian is a
cause of rejoicing for all Christians.

Another aspect of this brotherly love within the church is
that we are to work through any problems that arise because of
that mutual love for God and for one another. Friendships too
often end when there is a disagreement. Serious conflict can even
turn friends into enemies. When that happens in the church, it
dishonors God, yet it happens too often among those who profess
to love Him.

In a few weeks we will be examining the end of Romans 12 and
how to deal with conflict and enemies, but for now, if you are in
conflict with other Christians, or have had friendships end
because of them, then you need to be praying about what you will
do to resolve the conflict and restore broken relationships.
Every Christian is to be devoted to one another in brotherly love
which is demonstrated in showing preference for one another in
honor. Don’t wait for them, you are to take the lead in
being a living sacrifice for God and doing this.

This command does not mean that every Christian will be your
best buddy or that you have to share your heart with every other
Christian. There are different levels of intimacy and
relationship even within a family, so there are different levels
within the church. Issues such as common interests, personality
and trust affect how deep of a relationship we develop with other
people. However, in the family of God, all Christians are to have
the commitment of getting along with one another and seeking each
others best interest. That is the nature of the true love that we
are to have for God and one another.

Are you devoted to other believers with brotherly love? Are
you showing preference to them in honor?

Diligence

In verse 11 Paul addresses the diligence by which we are to
pursue not only what he has already talked about, but what
remains in the chapter as well. The first phrase of verse 11 is
translated in the NASB as "not lagging behind in
diligence,"
however, the force of the phrase is a little
stronger if it is translated a little more wooden, the
diligence is not slothful.
It is not so much that diligence
is something that we are to work up and make sure we are not
lagging behind in doing, but that being a living sacrifice
acceptable to God requires that we are diligent without any
laziness in our seeking and serving Him.

The word translated "diligence" here, spoudh /spoude, can also be translated as
"haste," "zeal," "eagerness" or
"earnestly." The core idea is that the person quickly
responds in earnestness to accomplish, promote or strive after
whatever is being requested. It is how parents would like their
children to respond to their commands and how your boss would
like you to respond to his instructions. When you are in charge
of getting something done, you would like those under your
authority to quickly respond and accomplish what you tell them.

The word translated as "not lagging," oknhroV / oknaros, can also be translated as
"slothful," "lazy," or "shrinking."
It is the idea of someone who hesitates and delays in responding
or doing what is required, and hence someone who is irksome or
troublesome.

The two words strengthen each other because they are
opposites. Someone who is diligent is not lazy, and someone who
hesitates or delays is not zealous or eager. Christians are to be
marked by a quickness to respond to God’s will as they learn
it because they love Him and desire to follow Him. We should be
eager to learn more of God and what He desires from us, and then
earnestly seek to change to match. As living sacrifices who are
being transformed by the renewing of their mind, we are not to be
slothful in being diligent to carry out God’s will as
quickly as we learn it.

One reason for this diligence is that we know that our lives
here are short. We are like grass which flowers and then quickly
withers (1 Peter 2:24). We have a limited amount of time to
accomplish something with our lives, so we follow Paul’s
injunction in Eph. 5:16 to be wise in making the most of our
time, because the days are evil.

Being Zealous in Spirit

This diligence is driven by the fact that believers are to be
zealous in spirit. The word zealous here is a transliteration of
the Greek word. It means to "boil" or "to be
hot" and thus came to mean "fervent." The
Christians’ soul has been touched by the Spirit of God which
has given him purpose, meaning and hope in life. We have exciting
news to tell the world. God has made a way for man to be forgiven
his sin and dwell with God forever in heaven. The result of that
should be enthusiasm for serving God with your life.

Complacency and indifference are two of the great evils that
can destroy a church. History shows that persecution rarely
destroys the church, though it can often destroy buildings and it
can drive believers away from certain areas. Usually, the church
will grow under persecution, though it may be driven
"underground" and meetings of believers have to become
clandestine. It is complacency and indifference that usually
causes churches to die.

If you are content with the current state, there is a natural
resistance to any changes including having new people to join you
since they might cause problems. If you are indifferent to the
fact that your neighbors are under God’s condemnation and
are bound for hell, you have little reason to go out of your way
to tell them the gospel. When the gospel is no longer being
proclaimed, there is little reason left for the church’s
existence. A church that becomes indifferent to the lost will
also be a church that has left its first love of Christ, and that
will tolerate heresy and impurity. Some of Jesus’ strongest
words in Revelation 2 & 3 were for the church at Laodicea
that had become "lukewarm." He said He would "spit
them out" of his mouth.

Christians are to be zealous, fervent, enthusiastic about
serving the Lord. It should thrill us just to consider the fact
that God, the sovereign and holy creator of everything, not only
wants us to serve Him, but has equipped us with spiritual gifts
to do so. Our lives can count for eternity.

This does not mean that Christians cannot get discouraged, for
sometimes what the Lord desires us to do is tough, consider the
task He gave Jeremiah, but even then, as Paul states in 1 Cor.
15:58, we are to "be steadfast, immovable, always
abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not
[in] vain in the Lord.
" A person who is enthusiastic
will also be diligent.

Serving the Lord

The second reason Paul gives for our diligence without any
laziness is in recognition of our position and whom we are
serving. We are not serving mere men. We are serving God Himself
who is our master. The word used here stresses this relationship
in service.

Paul uses three different words related to serving in this
chapter. The word used back in verse 1 referred to our service
done as a response of worship of God. The word used in verse 7
refers to the practical means by which service of God is carried
out. Here in verse 11, the particular word used for
"serving" refers to service as a bond-slave. A
bond-slave willingly subjugated his own desires for that of doing
his master’s will out of his love for him. The service given
was done willingly without any resentment, and hence would be
done diligently without any hesitation.

Conclusion

God has provided for our salvation from sin through faith in
the person and work of Jesus Christ. The reasonable response to
that is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices acceptable to
God. We resist the pressure of the world to have us continue to
live sinfully, and instead we are transformed into the image of
Jesus Christ as our minds are renewed through God’s Word and
the work of the Holy Spirit. The practical results of these are
to be seen in the godly development of our character.

Regardless of whatever you were like before becoming a
follower of Christ, now that you are a Christian, your life is
changing. It is to be increasingly marked by love without
hypocrisy which abhors evil and clings to what is good. It
develops relationships with other believers in which the devotion
of brotherly love is demonstrated by the preference shown for one
another in honor. The needs of others are becoming more important
to you than your own. All these things are done with diligence
because the Spirit of God has touched your life giving you
something to be enthusiastic about. There is nothing more
wonderful than having the privilege of having your life count for
eternity through serving the Lord, your master, with whatever
gift of gifts He has given you in whatever ministry He opened for
you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * *

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times the word "love" is used. 2) Discuss with your
parents the what it means to have brotherly love and how you are
to demonstrate it.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

Describe what it means to be a friend? What is the
believer’s general duty? Contrast true love and hypocrisy.
What is the believers general duty to other believers? What is
the meaning of "brotherly love." What is the difference
between it and normal friendship? Describe this by using your own
experiences? How does "devotion,"filostorgoV
/ philostorgos, strengthen the idea of "brotherly
love." What does it mean to "prefer one another in
honor"? Give practical examples of how that can be done?
What other passages give further explanation of this concept? Who
is the greatest example of such love? How was it demonstrated?
What causes Christians to struggle in showing brotherly love?
What is the solution for overcoming this struggle? Describe how a
family is supposed to function? What can you do to help your
family function this way? Why should Christians work out their
conflicts with each other? What happens if they do not? What does
it mean to be "not lagging in diligence." What are you
to be diligent about? What does it mean to be "fervent in
spirit"? Are you? What service are you doing for the Lord?
What is your attitude in doing that service? Are you the
Lord’s bond-slave?

Sermon
Study Sheets

Practical Christian
Living, Part 2
Romans 12:10,11

Introduction

Believer’s Duties to One Another

Brotherly Love

filadelfia/ /
philadelphia

2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Thess. 4:9,10; 1 Peter 1:22

Brotherly Love vs. Friendship

Devotion

filostorgoV / philostorgos

Preferring One Another

Philippians 2:3,4

A Functioning Family

 

 

Diligence

spoudh /spoude – Diligence

oknhroV / oknaros – slothful

 

 

Being Zealous in Spirit

Serving the Lord